Archive for August, 2018

Dog Days, or, Why So Sirius?

Monday, August 6th, 2018

 

When late summer hits, you begin to hear people talk about the ‘dog days of summer’. It’s used in commercials. You hear the phrase dropped by morning radio DJ’s. There even a popular song that references the saying! Everyone sort of knows it refers to a very hot part of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), but what in the world are we referencing? Do dogs like this weather? Do they hate it? Is this even about dogs? As with many English idioms, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it sounds on the surface.

Let’s learn a little astronomy! In the stars that make up the constellation Canis Major, Sirius is the brightest. It also happens to be the brightest start visible from Earth. At least as far back as the Greeks, humans associated the time when Sirius would rise just before the sun as not just an indicator that the hottest part of the summer was coming, but also a harbinger of some catastrophic event. How did we lose that connotation and start picturing a tired dog on a porch?

Not only did the Scientific Revolution put a major dent on humans looking to the stars for guidance, but the phrase was translated from Latin about 500 years ago, well into the era dominated by the Catholic Church. It was almost a stillborn phrase, stripped of the meaning on arrival in modern times. So we humans did what we’ve always been best at: attributing new meaning to our changing reality! And most ironically,because the stars position in the sky slow shifts through the millenia, people are going to be talking about the dog days of summer when Sirius will actually be rising in the winter about 13,000 years from now!

Now you know! Enjoy the dog days while they last; winter isn’t as far away as you think!

Five Ways to Keep Your Car on the Road

Monday, August 6th, 2018

ummer is approaching, and most Americans will be hitting the road on a trip at some point while the weather is nice. Even if you just plan to cruise around town, follow these easy tips to ensure your car stays on the road and out of the shop!

 

mechanic

 

1: Check Belts and Wipers

These pieces are easy to identify as fine or bad. If any rubber is cracked or looks horribly faded and brittle, just replace it before it breaks. An AC blower is one thing; a timing belt is quite another! While you’re at it, make sure your windshield fluid reservoir doesn’t have any cracks or leaks. There’s nothing as annoying as smearing something all over your windshield only to find out you have to stop at a gas station to clean up your mess.

2: Check Fluids!

This is possibly THE most important item you need to be aware of. Without lubrication, your engine and transmission will grind into a sold lump of metal. Oil is the only barrier between your pistons and the wall of the cylinder. In both your engine and your transmission (and certain 4WD systems) low oil levels will lead to undue wear and possibly overheating. Check in your owners manual for the specifics!

3: When In Doubt: Replace Your Spark Plugs

The spark plug is responsible for igniting the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder of your car’s engine. Weak or no spark can mean less power, worse mileage, and possibly misfires. They’re good for at least 30,000 usually, but if you can’t remember the last time you’ve changed them, the time is now. If you can work a ratchet and socket, you’ll feel like a real-life mechanic, even if you’re just playing one in your driveway.

4: Don’t Let Tires Get Tired

This is one of the easiest vehicle maintenance tasks! No excuses! Use the quarter trick to check tread life…..if the tread of your tire doesn’t reach Washington’s head when placed in between, it’s time to start shopping for new ones. A bald tire is a hydroplaning, braking, and cornering hazard. Also don’t forget to rotate! Your front tires will always wear faster on the outer edges because they’re handling steering duties. A reputable tire shop will be able to rotate and then balance each tire accordingly. If not done properly (or at all), you can damage your suspension with too much wobble.

5: Keep It Clean!!

Washing and detailing your car is the best thing you can do to keep your car looking and feeling new. This is even truer in places that get real winters. Snow and ice build up in the undercarriage can hold moisture right against exposed metal parts, leading to premature rust. Salted roads can exacerbate this issue. Additionally, a layer of dirt on your clear coat also invites premature oxidation. Left unchecked, and sometimes combined with rust from under the car, this can eat holes through body panels. Last: Who wants to look sloppy out in public? Keep your ride shining!

 

While there are many other simple maintenance tasks you could be tackling, these five are doable by drivers of any age with minimum effort. Have any more tips you’ve learned? Share them in the comments!

Car Camping Tips for the Northwest and Beyond

Monday, August 6th, 2018

 

Skip Memorial Day!

 

Let’s clarify: Celebrate Memorial Day, but DON’T be one of the millions of people in America to be disappointed by car camping during a major holiday. When you DO go, here are some tips to make the most of your camping excursions this season.

 

 

1: Embrace Overpacking!

When backpacking, it helps to be mindful of how much weight you can shave off, and how much you DON’T cram into your pack. But if you’re bringing the family car, SUV, or van, the only limit is legroom! That extra blanket, air mattress, or cooler can turn your trip from “Let’s get out of here.” to “I wish we had another day!”.  If your current ride isn’t quite roomy enough, check out the VW Atlas, Kia Sorento, and Mercedes GLS.

2: Buck Convention!

What better time to finally read that novel? You might feel pressured to go hike, fish, or look for deer tracks, but it’s ok to just sit by the fire and find out what happens in the next chapter while listening to the wind in the pines. Are you more of an extrovert? Bring a board game that requires a large group and lots of free time! This is often hard to pull off in town, as we constantly have screens and sounds bombarding us on the daily. Use the isolation to your advantage and dig into some Risk, Settlers of Catan, pinochle, or even (if kids aren’t present) Cards Against Humanity!

3: Make GOOD Food!

Look, hot dogs and marshmallows are fine. I would argue they’re necessary for a classic camping outing. That said, bring a cast iron skillet, build in little rock burner for it in your fire pit, and do up some LEGIT food! With the right cooler setup, bacon is definitely an option. Go this route to be able to use the grease to sear zucchini, onion, asparagus, or any other veggie you’re a fan of, then toss with the chopped bacon! Just that with some salt and pepper and you’re already miles beyond mystery meat in a white bun. Want more inspiration? Check out these 10 Delicious Cast Iron Skillet Recipes !

4: Be Safe!

Even camping in a drive-up campground, here in the Pacific Northwest anything from a squirrel to a bear might decide to investigate all this good food. Make sure to have an overhead food storage system, a bear-proof food locker, or both. Speaking of which, always carry bear spray. Depending on your personal values, local wildlife, and local laws, a firearm could be a good tool for that ‘what if’ scenarios. Walkie-talkies, flares, firestarting kits, emergency blankets, and rain gear will also serve you well if things get dicey. Use the The Ten Essentials as your guide!

5: Leave No Trace!

This is usually the refrain of hikers, climbers, and backpackers, but it should apply to ANYONE who is out enjoying nature. Make sure to pack out all your garbage, completely eradicate your fire by burying and dousing it, and try to leave the campsite looking better than it did when you arrived. Find out more about Leave No Trace camping principles here.

 

Have any more camping tips? We’d love to hear them!